This is an interesting book about dealing with hard times and facing difficult situations. Someone described it as a book that shows up just when you need it to, and I agree. It has something not just for people going through hard times, but for different experiences. It shows the value of being kind to yourself and treating your experiences as exactly what they are — your experiences and no one else’s.
Pema narrates various stories (including hers) about kindness, mindfulness, and letting go of aggression. She emphasises living life by focussing on the present, and treating the path as the goal. The only thing we really have is the present. Life is short and no one really knows how much time they have. The only thing we know is that we are here now.
She emphasises learning kindness for today as it is important for enlightenment and wisdom. Learning to be kind to yourself today and taking in your experiences without judgement is necessary to create an enlightened future.
The book also contains advice for meditation. Pema suggests doing things like saying “thinking” out loud when you start to have distracting thoughts during meditation. This will help you be aware of what is happening, and allow you express kindness to yourself by allowing the thoughts to pass.
An important theme of the book is also not treating anything as inherently good or evil (people, events, etc). An experience might be undesirable now, but invaluable in the future. We don’t know if things are good or bad. We can only experience them without aggression and express kindness when dealing with them. Taking the “middle way” can be a path to peace.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us”
“When there’s a big disappointment, we don’t know if that’s the end of the story. It may be just the beginning of a great adventure”
“Life is like that. We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know”
“This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it’s always with us”
“This starts with realising that whatever occurs is neither the beginning nor the end. It is just the same kind of normal human experience that’s been happening to everyday people from the beginning of time. Thoughts, emotions, moods, and memories come and they go, and basic nowness is always here.”
“The painful thing is that when we buy into disapproval, we are practicing disapproval. When we buy into harshness, we are practicing harshness. The more we do it, the stronger these qualities become. How sad it is that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others”
“The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move.”
Not all emotions require a response. Most of them don’t. They just are, and you can be content with them.
“Impermanence is the goodness of reality. Just as the four seasons are in continual flux, winter changing to spring to summer to autumn; just as day becomes night, light becoming dark becoming light again—in the same way, everything is constantly evolving. Impermanence is the essence of everything”
“When you fall in love, recognize it as impermanence, and let that intensify the preciousness”
“Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.”
“Unwise selfish people think only of themselves, and the result is confusion and pain. Wise selfish people know that the best thing they can do for themselves is to be there for others. As a result, they experience joy.”
“One piece of advice that Don Juan gave to Carlos Casteneda was to do everything as if it were the only thing in the world that mattered, while all the time knowing that it doesn’t matter at all”
“From the point of view of the teachings, thinking that we have ample time to do things later is the greatest myth, the greatest hang-up, and the greatest poison”
“If there’s any possibility for enlightenment, it’s right now, not at some future time.”
“Finally, never give up on yourself. Then you will never give up on others”
I learned a lot of new things from reading this. I also came across some old theories explained in new ways.
I recommend this book for anyone who would like to learn more about mindfulness, living in the present, and some of the teachings of Buddhism. I also recommend for anyone looking for a framework for dealing with hard times.
I like listening to music while reading books, so I created a playlist of songs I listened to while reading this book here.